Europe will lose out economically and socially if cows are no longer reared in rural areas and farms cannot remain in business, a leading lobby group representing 100,000 milk producers has warned.

The European Milk Board (EMB), which has members across 16 European countries, declared today (Monday, September 25) that the dairy market in Europe is in “the middle of a crisis”.

Kjartan Poulsen, president of the EMB, has called for policymakers in the EU to “wake up and activate some emergency measures in order to keep the European milk market from going under”.

“We cannot accept that even though EU policymakers see that the situation is hairy, they remain impassive and pass on the responsibility to the individual member states,” Poulsen declared.

He wants to see the European Commission intervene to “bring some relief to the milk market” by activating a voluntary production reduction programme.

Poulsen said that prices are “collapsing in EU member states one after the other” and producers are being forced to shut shop and it is time for action.

“Activate voluntary production reduction at EU level now, and pay farmers fair prices so that no more farms go out of business, rural areas remain vibrant and the EU is assured stable security of supply,” he said.

The EMB said if farmers were to voluntarily produce less this would reduce the volume of milk on the market but in exchange, farmers would also have to be paid a “bonus for reduction in milk production up to a specific number of litres”.

Its members have also called on senior commission policy makers in Europe to put in place a new framework for “better distribution of margins along the value chain”.

Milk production

According to Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) and a board member of the EMB, a voluntary milk reduction scheme would “help strengthen markets”.

He said the European Commission “was happy to enough to go down this road in 2015” and he does not believe there are any reasons “why they can’t look at such an option now”.

French board member of the EMB Boris Gondouin also said he believes that Europe now faces an “exodus of people and professions from rural areas”.

“The environment as well as the cultural fabric in rural areas is also suffering as the number of farmers has reduced drastically.

“Without dairy farming and without family farms, biodiversity hangs in the balance,” Gondouin added.

McCormack also urged policymakers in Europe to “lay the foundation for economic and social sustainability” in order to maintain biodiversity.